I sipped my water with shaky hands (secretly wishing it was vodka) as I stood in front of the dean and two other professors. I spent months analyzing storytelling in the media – and was finally ready to explain authenticity and meaningful media in my content analysis.
It was the day I was defending my Master's thesis. And I had major squinzies. I cleared my throat, stood up straight, and then…bolted out of the room.
I couldn't take the pressure of months of agonizing research boiled into a one-hour presentation. I wanted it to be over. So I got scared and fled. It made perfect sense in my head.
I eventually collected myself, took a deep breath, and slowly sauntered back into the room – with a smile and a sense of already overcoming something.
It's easier to wear the mask.
We're taught to use big words to sound smart, never show fear, and to comfortably masquerade in a mask. It can take time to deconstruct these false realities. And it often requires real effort and a solid strategy to build your brand in a human way.
Whether you're learning this the hard way or trying to get out of your own way, here are some ideas for how to build a human brand:
1. Be a humble human
It's ironic, really. When you graduate from academia, you're seen as an expert in your industry. But the moment that you proclaim you're an expert or give off the vibe that you're really an expert, you get egg on yo' face. And that's humiliating.
Humility is the quality or state of not thinking that you are better than other people – which is why it's important to not be an expert. And while it's important to be regarded as a credible and trustworthy leader in your industry, try not to humiliate yourself by proclaiming that you're the best. Don't be that guru, ninja, or maven who knows it all.
You want egg rolls. Not eye rolls.
Stay humble to keep your brand human. You may find that it's ironically satisfying.
2. Look at history
The need to build a brand that's human is nothing new. In fact, a book published in 1999 called The Cluetrain Manifesto describes the importance of being human in business. Humanity gives your marketing an edge. And the rich history of humanity shines with humility from stories.
When you look at history, you can better harness humility and humanity. This can help build your brand, and grow your business.
3. Cut to the core
When you cut to the core of your brand, you can ask yourself uncomfortable questions that make you and your brand uniquely you.
Some questions that you may want to ask yourself are:
- Why did you start your business?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are some of your unique traits?
- What are the needs of your customers that only you can solve?
Answering these questions is not always easy. And it may seem counter-intuitive to put your weaknesses out there. But when you learn to tolerate discomfort, you can gather your grit so that you can reap rewards in the long-run.
When you cut to the core of who you are, you open doors to opportunities. You start to tell stories to keep it real. And you win new business along the way.
4. Create context with storytelling
Context is “the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.”
Context is about finding ways to weave worthy moments into your stories. Context is what can give you creative confidence. And this…THIS is what connects us to each other.
5. Use Words Wisely
You may think that what you do speaks for itself…but stop right there.
On the web, words rule. Words are how you build your brand in an authentic way.
Words are how you gain more traffic for your website, build influence, and grow. Words are what make you human. And while the industry term for this is “content marketing” it's so much more than that. It's an art.
Good art drives conversation. It creates connection. And connection drives business.
Whether you're a witty wordsmith or a wannabe wordie, words rule the web. If you're looking to grow your business in a meaningful way, content marketing is how it's done.